AdventureNotes #27: London (again!)

It’s been a while! After more than a year, I finally have the spirit to update my website. Back with AdventureNotes as I have been inspired by travel vloggers. This is a trip that I did in 2016 during spring. And again, it’s London!

London is a city that I visited – and would like to visit – over and over again. Yes, you can’t get enough of it. This time, I went to London because of visa stuffs. I wanted to apply for a schengen visa for my trip later to Spain. My husband and I decided to stay in London for a few nights just because we wouldn’t want to miss spending days visiting places in London.

Day 1

We went, I think, in around April/May. Having a trip in Spring is perfect because the weather is nice, the flowers are blooming, and the day is neither too short nor too long. We decided that on our first day, we will visit Greenwich area. Who don’t know Greenwich? I think it is a vocabulary that you will come across at school. That is the place where the 0 longitude lies. It is located rather in the south east of the City of London, and you can take the DLR or tube to get there. From central London, you will pass so many modern office buildings, which is really nice and also different from the old-style London touristy places. There’s also other alternatives, such as bus and cable car. Yes, if you are interested, you can take the Emirates Cable Car to cross the River Thames and get to Greenwich area.

Getting down in Cutty Shark station, you can walk straight to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. However, we wanted to take a longer route and went near the river instead. We walked to Cutty Shark, which is a kind of monument made of a real ship. You can come into the place with a certain fee. However, my main goal was to go to the Royal Observatory. Therefore, we skipped that and walked along the street to the Greenwich Pier. From the river bank, we can go inside the University of Greenwich area. The most popular view from the University of Greenwich is its Old Royal Naval College building. It is a part of the Maritime Greenwich, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I just knew this!). We didn’t come inside as we don’t have that much time – and part of the complex is not open for public. We walked through to the National Maritime Museum to get access to the Greenwich Royal Observatory complex.

Photo source: https://www.guidelondon.org.uk/blog/around-london/top-10-reasons-to-visit-greenwich/

Greenwich Royal Observatory is actually located within the Greenwich Park. We needed to walk through quite elevated road to get there. It was around 10-15 minutes walk from the National Maritime Museum, crossing the park. It was a fun walk and up there, not even inside the Royal Observatory, you can see a beautiful view of the Old Royal Naval College and the River Thames.

It was not cheap, but for the sake of fulfilling our curiosity, my husband and I decided to splurge on some more money to get inside the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The ticket price is 10 per person for adult. We got in and explored the complex. The Greenwich Royal Observatory consists of several buildings. We can come inside each building and go up to the observatory. The visit was educational and the highlight was the Prime Meridian. There is a planetarium as well there, but we didn’t have a chance to visit it (extra fee!).

Finished with the visit to Royal Observatory, we opted to visit the National Maritime Museum. It was an unplanned visit, but we got attracted by the whole exhibition in the museum. As most museums in the UK, the visit to this museum is free of charge (except for the special exhibition). There are so many things to see and there is also a great children area. We went around and fully covered the whole exhibition before going out to see the Greenwich Market.

Greenwich Market is a so-called historic market in London. The area is full of small shops, selling many things from clothes to crafts. There are also food stalls there. At the time we visited the place, it was very crowded, with so many people queueing for food. The price of the food ranges from GBP 5-10. We decided to have a little snacks before leaving the market as we planned to have lunch elsewhere.

The rest of the day was spent to eat lunch (this best eating spot – at least for us – in London called Noodle Stop near Piccadilly) and to meet friends. Tired with all of the luggage and everything, we ended our day by resting in our pre-booked hotel room. Again, we chose to stay in Easyhotel. It is a hotel chain that has properties in many cities and it always has a great offers. The first time we were in London, we stayed in Easyhotel Victoria with only GBP 25 per night. This was such a deal – keeping in mind that it was Christmas and holiday season! This time, we booked a room in Easyhotel South Kensington. We chose this place because it is close to tube station and many attractions. We paid GBP 38 for a night and we stayed for 3 nights. The room was super small, but it is enough if you really want to spend the days travelling and visiting places and only use the room to rest. What prime is its location with Easyhotel. All super central and really close to everything.

Day 2

We went out pretty early in the morning to apply for Schengen Visa. We finished quite early, around 10 am. We got back to the hotel to put documents away and planned out itinerary for the day. We originally wanted to visit the Natural History Museum, which is very close to our hotel. However, the queue was super long, reaching to the underground station. We skipped that plan and opted to walk to the Knightsbridge area. There are mostly shops and shopping mall in Knightsbridge – yes, Harrods is there. We didn’t spend too much time there and decided to visit another museum in London. We went to the Museum of London. It was such an interesting museum with loads of information, mostly about London. The exhibition areas are divided based on era, starting from the ice age to the current modern days. I got to learn about the London great fire, how it was in the Victorian age, and how it is today. Cool.

After that, we searched for interesting places near the museum. Finally, we found that Leadenhall Market is not too far away. On this day, we chose to go around by bus as we have plenty of time. We got off the bus a bit far from the market as we wanted to explore the surrounding area. We walked pass the Bank of England (they have a museum, too!), London Troops War Memorial, and Social Stock Exchange. The Leadenhall Market is not too far from there. What do we do in the market? Well, in my opinion, it is mostly about the architecture. It is unique and I think one of a kind. There are shops and restaurants, but not too much of a choice. After exploring the whole market, we hopped on a bus and basically just wandered around London, going where the bus took us.

Photo source: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/Pages/leadenhall-market.aspx

We went back to our hotel area and tried to explore the neighborhood. South Kensington is a quite famous neighborhood in London. It is known as one of the most exclusive real estate area and the buildings are really nice. We particularly were interested in the small shops around the Natural History Museum. There is this small bookshop with amazing collection. I couldn’t stop myself and bought quite a lot of books! Yes, the next day’s travel back to Birmingham would be heavy.

Day 3

This was our last day in London (and now I know that it was our last visit during our year in the UK). We only had the morning as our train leaves at 2.00 pm. After having breakfast in the hotel (nah, we bought our own food), we checked out and went to visit Camden area. I’ve always wanted to know the area since I watched this movie when I was in middle school. Now I already forgot the movie, but I’ve always wanted to go there. So this day was THE day.

Camden Market is located rather in the north of London. It was a huge complex with many crafts and food stalls. What they sell in the market is similar from one to another, and coming from Indonesia (where the crafts are beautiful), I didn’t really find an interesting stuff here. What was tempting was the food. There are so many food stalls with so many choices. There are foods from all around the world, I guess. However, it was nowhere near lunchtime and we were still full. We just walked around the market and the area. Again, we decided to take the bus back home. What interesting was that there are so many shops too outside the market. The road was just full with sellers, many of those sell London souvenirs. People say that the souvenirs here are quite a bargain and lots of tourists come here to buy gifts for their loved ones at home.

Photo source: http://retiredandtravelling.com/little-venice-and-camden-market/

Overall, it was such a relaxing and fun visit to London. We didn’t have that much in our itinerary, but for me, it was more enjoyable. Well, again, it was not enough. I don’t know how much more visit that I have to make to London until I see the whole thing. Anyways, see you next time, London!

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Naik Kereta Keliling UK

photo-edited

Photo: Taken during a train ride from York to Edinburgh

Agak malu rasanya, kok malah lebih banyak khatam mengunjungi kota-kota di UK daripada di Indonesia. Bagi saya, mengunjungi kota-kota yang bukan tempat berdomisili di Indonesia kok ya susah banget, dari segi waktu maupun biaya. Namun, mengunjungi kota-kota di UK rasanya tinggal cuss aja (ya tapi ini lebay sih, masih ada juga pertimbangan waktu dan biaya). Mungkin beberapa alasannya adalah karena ‘kepepet’ mode-on (tinggal di UK hanya sebentar saja dan belum tentu bisa balik lagi) dan karena negara ini cuiiiilik banget kalau dibandingkan dengan Indonesia. Iya kaaan… si Indonesia raya negara kecintaan kita memang luasnya sungguh besar, bahkan lintangnya mencakup 3 zona waktu. Lhaa UK? Dari ujung ke ujung naik kereta, mungkin hanya memakan waktu maksimal setengah hari (dengan kereta cepat, tentunya).

Kedua alasan tersebut membuat biaya perjalanan dan mode transportasi untuk berjalan-jalan jadi berbeda. Kalau di Indonesia moda transportasi yang sangat sering digunakan adalah pesawat karena cepat dan (cenderung) bisa lebih murah, maka moda transportasi ini justru tidak pernah saya cicipi saat berjalan-jalan di dalam UK (exclude Northern Ireland, yang saya sendiri malah belum pernah). Berkebalikan dengan di Indonesia yang sepertinya bagi saya kereta api adalah moda transportasi yang ada di urutan paling bawah (eh, tapi katanya sekarang kereta api di Indonesia sudah ciamik yaa?), naik kereta menjadi hal favorit saya saat bepergian di dalam UK. Kereta adalah pilihan utama saat berusaha untuk memenuhi checklist kota yang harus dikunjungi ke UK. Sebenarnya, ada banyak cara lain untuk berkeliling UK, seperti naik mobil, bus, atau pesawat. Namun, bagi saya, naik kereta has its own charm!

Pertama, value for money. Yah, walaupun harga tiket kereta di UK adalah salah satu yang termahal di dunia (apabila dihitung per mile), value for money-nya cukup baik. Bagi saya, naik kereta ke salah satu kota rasanya lebih murah dibandingkan dengan menyewa mobil (plus asuransinya) dan mengisi bensin. Belum lagi dihitung lelahnya membaca peta dan menyetir – saya langsung angkat tangan. Memang sih, ada daerah-daerah tertentu yang agak sulit terjangkau oleh kereta sehingga mobil mutlak dibutuhkan. Namun, sebagian besar area di UK sangat terjangkau oleh kereta. Ke-murah-an kereta bisa ditambah lagi apabila kita memiliki railcard. Berbagai jenis railcard yang ditawarkan bisa memfasilitasi diskon (up to 30%). Situs pencarian tiket murah transportasi pun sangat-sangat membantu sehingga kita bisa memilih perjalanan kereta yang sesuai dengan budget dan jadwal kita.

Kedua, seperti yang telah sedikit disinggung, naik kereta di UK sangat nyaman. Fasilitas toilet yang cukup modern tersedia di kereta, pun pada beberapa provider, ada kantin sehingga kita bisa membeli makanan dan minuman. Electrical plug juga tersedia di sebagian besar kereta. Rasanya, kereta terminim fasilitas yang pernah saya naiki adalah Northern Rail yang keretanya sudah tua (tidak semua kereta Northern Rail begini) dan London Midlands. Hahaha… Tentunya, kompensasi dari minimnya fasilitas adalah harga yang lebih murah. Kenyamanan lain yang bagi saya invaluable adalah kita dapat dengan mudah datang ke stasiun, duduk manis di kereta, dan sampai di kota tujuan tanpa harus pusing memikirkan rute. Energi pun dapat tersimpan untuk dihabiskan saat meng-explore kota tujuan wisata.

Ketiga, the scenic route. Okeh, sebenarnya ini adalah alasan utama saya. Entah kenapa, hampir seluruh perjalanan kereta di UK kok ya dilengkapi dengan suguhan pemandangan yang luar biasa indah di sepanjang perjalanan. Lagi-lagi, yang ter-tidak indah adalah perjalanan dari Birmingham ke London. Sisanya? Wonderful Journey! Membandingkan pemandangan saat bepergian di dalam UK dan saat naik kereta antar-kota di Spanyol, jauuuuhhh banget level keindahan pemandangannya. Mungkin, the scenery can only be defeated by the route in Switzerland and Southern Germany. Yah, kalau di Swiss sih nggak usah ditanya lagi, ya. Mungkin indahnya nggak ada yang ngalahin. Rute favorit saya sampai sekarang adalah perjalanan dari York menuju Edinburgh melalui pantai timur Inggris yang melewati Newcastle dan Durham. Super bagus! Saya bisa melihat pantai, tebing-tebing putih, kota-kota kecil, jembatan yang menyeberangi muara, dan kapal-kapal. Ditambah dengan bonus langit biru dan awan putih? Unbelievable. Masih ada banyak lagi tipe-tipe pemandangan yang bisa dinikmati, tentunya sesuai dengan daerah yang dilewati oleh kereta. Pokoknya, tidak bosan-bosan melihat keluar jendela.

The downside…. Hmmm.. apa ya? Apa kurangnya moda transportasi kereta di UK. Selama yang saya alami, mungkin downside-nya adalah kita jadi tidak bisa fleksibel dalam merancang itinerary karena terpatok oleh jadwal kereta. Ini pun bisa disiasati karena biasanya, ada beberapa kali perjalanan menuju satu kota di dalam satu hari (kebanyakan untuk kota-kota besar). Selain itu, seperti yang juga telah disebutkan di atas, ada beberapa daerah yang agak sulit diakses dengan kereta – bisa karena daerah tersebut terpencil sekali. Nah, biasanya sih, untuk daerah-daerah ini, kita harus berganti kereta beberapa kali untuk sampai di tempat tujuan. Terakhir, berhubungan dengan aksesibilitas, tentunya harga tiket kereta ke tempat-tempat yang sulit dijangkau juga lebih mahal. Saya beruntung karena saat ini tinggal di Birmingham yang merupakan transportation hub bagi kereta. Hal ini menyebabkan harga tiket kereta ke dan dari Birmingham cenderung lebih murah. Dulu, saat masih tinggal di Hull, harga tiket kereta jauuuh lebih mahal. Lagi-lagi, hal ini bisa disiasati dengan membeli tiket dari jauh hari (harga tiket go-show super mahal) sehingga kita bisa mendapatkan best deal.
Intinya, I truly recommend you to try using train to travel around UK. Semoga bisa menjadi pengalaman tak terlupakan! Selamat naik kereta keliling UK.

AdventureNotes #20: Cambridge

Besides Oxford, another city famous for its smart students is Cambridge. Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the UK, dating back to 1209. Wow! In my words, I think Indonesia was still in Ken Dedes and Ken Arok era when people in the UK began attending universities. Well, besides its long history, University of Cambridge is very famous for its high quality of education. People from all around the world dream of coming to Cambridge to study. Indeed, university life is the center of the city. From my observation, it almost seems that the city basically grows around the university. Personally, besides its education quality, Cambridge is a beautiful city to visit.

Getting to Cambridge is certainly easy. Like most cities in the UK, you can just hop on a train to reach this city. However, I think people need to beware because the train fare is quite expensive for Cambridge. To compare, a train ride from Birmingham to London costs around £10-20 return per person whereas the train ride from Birmingham to Cambridge costs around £50-60. It’s almost three times the cost, right? This is why I just visited Cambridge during the second time I live in the UK. I joined a university arranged trip, which can be quite cheap. At that time, I only paid around £15 for my return trip. If you are a student, you can search information about this kind of trip. It can be useful!

I didn’t stay overnight when I visited the city. It was a lovely daytrip because the weather was so nice that day. I won’t be able to suggest which one is better, to stay overnight or to have a daytrip because I am not so sure about how expensive the accommodation price there. However, I can tell that visiting the city just for a day surely not enough to explore the whole city one by one. I mean, there are lots of galleries and museums that you can come into. Indeed, exploring a museum for a day is never enough in the UK. They are massive!

So, what did I do when I visited Cambridge? Punting! What? It’s so mainstream and expensive! Actually… no, it isn’t. I booked my ticket online so I just had to pay £8 for around an hour punt ride. Of course, I chose the one with a punter. I’m not that confident to punt by myself. I’m not that good at swimming. Well, anyway, it was a good choice. During the trip, the punter told us about peculiar facts about Cambridge. We could see the back of Cambridge colleges and the view is simply beautiful. I love it! I think most of Cambridge biggest colleges are located near the river so we can see almost all of the famous attractions during our punt ride. Besides, it really helps us navigate our way later on when we explore the city by foot.

Just like Oxford, the main attraction of Cambridge is its university. And just like Oxford, we need to pay a small amount of admission ticket to enter the colleges. Well, not all, just the most beautiful and famous ones. The ticket price is slightly more expensive than Oxford, too. Therefore, I would suggest you to choose which college you want to visit. During my visit, I entered three colleges. One of them is free, which is Clare College. The other two, St. John’s College and King’s College are not free. However, it is worth it! The view was just beautiful. Moreover, at the time I visited the city, I think there was some kind of celebration or something. University of Cambridge students were walking around with their robes. Gosh, I really want to try wearing those robes. You know, each college has its own robes? I felt like I’m in a Harry Potter movie. You surely can visit some more colleges. A friend of mine said that Pembroke College certainly needs to be visited. I also wanted to go to Trinity College, but it was closed at the time I was in the city. Well, you can check them first before deciding to visit them.

So museums, colleges, punting… Cambridge also offers unique outdoor markets. I think it is occasional, but the open market in the center of the city is regularly opened. I went to an art pop up market and saw unique things. I also went to the outdoor market and see many distinct foods. It is interesting for me. Actually, I like to soak up the atmosphere there. Cambridge is also full of interesting small streets. You can explore them. I don’t really know about the shops, but I think it might be interesting to go into shops selling the University of Cambridge robes. I tried to enter one, but non-students cannot try on the robes.

As I said, a day in Cambridge only covers that much. I think another visit to Cambridge is necessary to find out more about the city. In my opinion, indeed, Cambridge is a very beautiful city.

Mar 26, 2016

AdventureNotes #19: Bath

When I first came to the UK, I didn’t know what Bath is. My friend, then, told me that it is a beautiful city and the home of one of the UNESCO World Heritage. I am not sure why I didn’t know about Bath because it is mentioned as one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and it is a must visit place. Therefore, I started to look into it, finding out information about the city, and finally decided to visit Bath.

I went to Bath during a summer break by train from London. As I was living in Hull at that time, the cheapest way to go to Bath is through London. However, it can still be quite expensive, around £30 for return ticket per person. Actually, Bath is easily accessible by train. However, if you want to get better deal on visiting this city, you can check day tours or Eventbrite because there are several day tours to Bath and Stonehenge, or other cities, from London. It can be a better choice if you want to visit more than just Bath.

Personally, I cannot find any city similar to Bath. I don’t know but I just don’t think it is comparable to any other cities. I think Brighton is the closest one, but Brighton is located on the seaside whereas Bath is mountainous. Moreover, there are actually so many attractions in Bath that I would suggest you to stay at least one night to really get to know the city. Therefore, I chose to make my own itinerary and spent a night in Bath.

Although it is advised to stay in Bath overnight, the accommodation price there is expensive. As it is a touristic place, like York, hiring a hotel room can be very expensive. I could not find any hotel offering a room priced less than £40. You are lucky if you are a solo traveler or you don’t mind to stay in hostels because YHA has a branch there. So far, it is the most affordable accommodation in Bath – well, except the AirBnB. However, I didn’t stay in YHA when I visited Bath. Instead, I slept in a university accommodation. How come? Every summer holiday, the University of Bath rents its student accommodation for visitors. The price is quite cheap, around £30 a night including breakfast. It is a dorm room, fully equipped. The only downside is that the bathroom is shared. I was quite happy to be able to spend a night there because then, I could also visit the university and feel how students live in dorms. The breakfast is quite good, too.

As I said, there are many tourist attractions in Bath. The most popular ones are the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Center, Fashion Museum, No.1 Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, and the Circus, and the Royal Crescent. You can visit all of them, of course. However, at the time I visited the city, my constraint was money. Most of the attractions in Bath apply admission fee.

For the paid ones, I went to Roman Baths, Fashion Museum, and No.1 Royal Crescent. It was costly, but I think it worth the pay. In Roman Baths, I could see many Roman artefacts and get to know more about how Romans live in the UK at that time. Basically, it provides us with so many historical facts and stories. Besides that, we can also see the former Roman Baths, where people on that day take shower. It is very well preserved. This attraction is located in the middle of the city so it is hard to miss. Near the Roman Bath, there is a café called The Pump Room, where you can have tea afterwards. Well, I didn’t try it because I was in a low budget, but if you are interested you can absolutely try to have an afternoon tea here.

On my second day in Bath, I went to see the Royal Crescent and the No.1 Royal Crescent. They are located in the same area. The No.1 Royal Crescent is a show house, picturing how people in the Georgian era live. We can explore the different rooms of the house, including the furniture and else. There are guides there who will tell us stories and details about how people live back then. Unfortunately, most of the objects shown there are not really the original objects but loans from different museums and private collections. Well, it is good to know that people here really pay attention to history, saving meaningful objects, etc. But it will be good for the attraction to have collections on its own.

Although I didn’t plan to go to this museum, the Fashion Museum is certainly my highlight. The museum is rather dark, but the amount of the collection is imaginable. I could really see how fashion changes along time. The exhibition is enormous. I think, fashion lovers should visit this museum and will spend a whole day in this attraction. Again, despite its cost, it is very worth it.

Those are my picks, but you can explore Bath for more. If you are in a low budget, you don’t have to come into those paid attraction because strolling through Bath’s small alleys and streets is certainly charming. It is a city like no other.

Mar 19, 2016

AdventureNotes #18: Oxford

A lot of people know that Oxford is a name of a university. Do you also know that this is the name of the city where the university is located in? Almost the same as Cambridge, Oxford tourism depends on its university. Therefore, traveling to Oxford means coming into the university colleges, museums, and libraries – well, at least most part of it. I visited Oxford twice, first by myself on a super tight budget and the second with my husband and his friends with an enough budget so that I can enter some of the colleges there.

Oxford is a city located in the south part of UK. The city is quite reachable by train and bus. For me, I went to Oxford by bus, both from London and Birmingham. The bus from London to Oxford can be as cheap as £1 for one way. The bus is called Oxford Tube, which everyone can take from the front of London Victoria Station. I don’t know how much it will cost if you just get on the bus and pay there, but I bought my ticket online and it was just £1. The journey from London to Oxford takes around 2 hours. The city is also around 2 hours journey from Birmingham, from which I took a MegaBus that costs only £7 return. Quite cheap, right?

As the city is quite small, if you don’t explore the whole museums there, most people visit Oxford for only a day trip. As I said, the main attraction is its university. As most cities in the UK, the city has more than one university, but the one that is the oldest university in the UK and the most popular one is called University of Oxford. Similar to Cambridge, the university is divided into many colleges. Each college has its own complex, with accommodation, classes, halls, and sometimes its own library, too. Some of the colleges are open for visitors because of its beauty. Some of them are free, and some requires visitors to pay a “small” amount of money. Well, the most expensive one in Oxford is Christ Church College. It is indeed, the most famous college of all because its hall is the inspiration of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Great Hall. When I visited the college, I had to pay more than £5. At that time, the college also opens a Bed and Breakfast so that visitors can try living in the dorm and having breakfast in the Great Hall. I must say that the place is beautiful, starting from the meadow outside the main building up to the inner part of the college complex, which includes dorms, library, chapel, and halls. However, I think the hall is not as I expected. In reality, I think it is quite small. It is still functioning now, holding dinners and breakfasts for the students. When I went to see the hall, the university staffs were preparing dinner as they set up the tables there. I also saw the accommodation building, which is in direct opposite of the library of this college. There, I saw a student who just wears pajamas to visit the library. I think the students basically live in the library and just go to their accommodation when they need to eat or shower. Haha… Well, actually you can choose to not live in the colleges but rent an accommodation a bit far from the city. It is cheaper.

Other Oxford attractions are also related to the university, such as the All Soul’s College (we cannot get in here because it is closed for public), University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Bodleian Camera, and Radcliffe Camera. Those places can be visited by paying an admission fee. If you are really interested in knowing what’s inside, maybe you can buy the tickets. However, I am not. So, although I’ve visited Oxford twice, I only see those places from the outside. I heard that it is quite useful to join walking tours around Oxford to get to know the city better. Some of the walking tours are free, but some are not. If the tour is not free, it is a good chance that the price includes the admission tickets to several places.

Is Oxford really that expensive? Well, no. If you are on a budget, you can always go inside the museums. There are several museums in Oxford, which most of them are managed by the university. I went inside one of them just to pass by, and I think if I have enough time, I’d love to explore the place. Again, as many other museums in the UK, the place is arranged interestingly so that the image of dark and gloomy museum vanishes from my mind.

Well, the last place that I visited on my latest visit to Oxford is the Covered Market. It is basically an indoor market full of different kinds of stalls. This place is so interesting because you can find anything, from cookies to uncooked chicken. Some of the small bag shops and accessories shops are unique, I don’t know if they have branch elsewhere. There is also a really interesting cake shop with different decorations on the cakes. I love the place! I think it’s worth the visit.

For me, Oxford is… yeah, Oxford. I cannot find an exact adjective to describe it. I think it is quite interesting, although the city center is so packed. My husband doesn’t really like it because he thinks it’s vague (I don’t know why), but if you’d like to see how ‘the bright’ students live, you can visit Oxford.

Mar 12, 2016

AdventureNotes #17: Mainstream London

After a week off last week, this is the last AdventureNotes article about London. Yeay! This last article will explore about the mainstream London. London’s first visitors certainly must at least pass along these places to really prove to the world that they have visited this wonderful city! The whole passing along these locations can be done in a day and cheaply if you are not interested to go inside those places. However, the museums and galleries listed in my version of mainstream London can take up to one day visit. Therefore, allocate enough time if you really are interested in going into the museums and galleries.

Everyone’s list of mainstream London can be different from one to another. I make this list of mainstream London based on my experience and the Visit London website. So, here’s the list and brief explanation about each of them:

1.      British Museum – a must visit place in London. If you only have limited time, I would suggest you to pick one or two galleries to visit. The place can be very crowded during the peak season, so beware of not being comfortable inside this museum. It is a good photo spot, especially inside its famous center hall.

2.      National Gallery – if you are an artistic person and are interested in paintings, you can go inside. The place is huge and again, you have to allocate special time for you to visit. I like to sit around the Trafalgar Square, instead. It is located in front of the National Gallery. Sometimes there are celebrations or special occasions held there.

3.      Natural History Museum – this place is huge! I think people can go again and again to this place because it is so interesting! The admission is free, another advantage for budget traveler.

4.      London Eye – this spot is one of the iconic places in London. Strolling near the London Eye in the Southbank is already satisfying. It is indeed worth it to pay the price for the London Eye ticket. It is quite expensive, but there are promotional options to get a better price. I love the view from the London Eye at night. It is so beautiful!

5.      Tower of London – The place is located near the Thames River and it is now a museum. There are galleries and tours for you to choose when you are visiting this place. You have to pay for the admission ticket, though.

6.      Tower Bridge – this iconic place is a must visit in London. You can just walk along the bridge, take pictures near it, or even come inside the towers of the Tower Bridge to see exhibitions. Again, you need to pay for the admission ticket in this attraction.

7.      Madame Tussauds – there are Madame Tussauds in other cities, indeed. I don’t really know the difference between those Madame Tussauds, but if you haven’t been to one, you surely can visit the one in London. The admission price is quite expensive and the queue can be very long, but you can take pictures, a lot of them, inside.

8.      221b Baker Street – Sherlock! For Sherlock Holmes fans, this is a must visit place. However, I was disappointed coming inside this place to see the exhibition because it is not that interesting for me. With the price and the queue, surely I wouldn’t recommend you to come except you really a hardcore fan of Sherlock Holmes. I think, taking picture in front of it and visiting the shop is quite enough.

9.      Buckingham Palace – an attraction that you can see when you visit this place is the changing guard. It happens daily or once in two days at 11.30. The procession lasts around 45 minutes. Quite interesting, but not that much. During the summer, the palace is open for public and you can see the inside of the building. Again, it is not free of charge.

10.  Parliament House – definitely cannot go inside, but taking picture in front of the Parliament House is a must. It really shows that you’ve visited London. The best place to take your picture in front of it is from the bridge just next to the building.

11.  Big Ben – attached to the Parliament House, this is also the icon of London. Take a picture of yourself in front of this place!

12.  Westminster Abbey – located just on the square of the Parliament House, Westminster Abbey is famous as a place for the Royal Family to do their religious activities. You can take a picture in front of it, and you can also come inside to see the place.

13.  St. Paul’s Church – I love this building! Walking across the Millennium Bridge and seeing this building is just magnificent! You can take pictures and come inside the church. All free of charge.

14.  Piccadilly Circus / Soho – it is not a building but an area. The place is so famous and is always crowded. I like to just walk along the streets in this area. It is nice!

15.  Oxford Street – shopping! That’s the word comes to my mind every time I hear Oxford Street. Lots and lots of shops here, where you can just have your retail therapy.

As I said, it only takes a day to visit all these places if you are not going inside and just take pictures of them from the outside. Most of the places are located along the Thames River, so it is not difficult to reach them. I would suggest people to go to the Buckingham Palace first, and then walk through the St. James Park to reach the Parliament Square, where the Parliament House, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey are located. You can walk across the bridge from the Big Ben and follow the pathway to the London Eye. Then, cross the bridge again to reach the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. From there, I usually take the tube to the Tower of London, quite near to the Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The other places left are the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Madame Tussauds, 221b Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Street. I like to categorize the places into their location. For example, the British Museum is not too far from the Oxford Street, which is adjacent to Piccadilly Circus. Then, Madame Tussauds and 221b Baker Street are close to each other. Finally, the Natural History is located in the museum quarter of London, where there are also Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.

It is very easy to visit the mainstream London points of interest. If you like to take the bus, you can take London Bus Route 4, which passes along the Waterloo, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Barbican. Another bus route, London Bus Route 88, passes along the Regent Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Parliament. See? You can even just stay inside the bus to pass these iconic locations. The district and circle lines of London Underground are also the main route if you prefer to use the tube as your mode of transportation.

That’s all about London – well, up until now. I am sure that there will be loads and loads more after I visit the city more.

Mar 04, 2016

AdventureNotes #15: Budget London

This article is the second part of the London series in AdventureNotes. London is notoriously known as an expensive city. Indeed, based on the figures from Expatistan reported by the Independent UK, it is the third most expensive city in the world (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-is-the-third-most-expensive-city-in-the-world-to-live-in-just-behind-billionaire-playgrounds-10422924.html). It is also placed on the third place for its property cost according to Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/pictures/11450782/The-worlds-10-most-expensive-cities-2015.html?frame=3220484). These facts sometimes make people think more than once when they are planning to visit this city. Is it too expensive to visit? Will it worth the money? It surely will! There are numerous ways to visit this city when you are on a budget.

As its property price is so high, staying in London can be very, very expensive. The normal chain hotel price in zone 4-5 London is around £60. How can I afford that? Well, there are some other options for you who want to get the best bargain. If you are Indonesian, there is always Wisma Indonesia. The place is very cheap, around £15 per night. However, the location is quite far from central London where the attractions are. Combined with the transportation price, etc., I would say that there are other options. If you are travelling alone, hostels can be more affordable. There are various choices for hostels in London. I usually use this website, http://www.hostelworld.com/, to book hostels in UK. It’s pretty handy. However, you may want to check the hostel’s website to compare the price. Hostels can also be useful when you are travelling in groups. Besides that, there is also AirBnB that offers various properties to be rented in London. Want some more privacy? Why don’t we try the budget hotel chain? There are many budget hotel brands, such as EasyHotel, Tune Hotel, or Premmier Inn. Those hotels have properties in various central places in London. It’s quite a bargain if you want some more privacy and be close to London highlights. I visited London last December and stayed in EasyHotel in Victoria for just £25 per night. The room is very small but it’s okay for couples. I recon if you are travelling with kids, the other budget hotels might be better although a bit pricey.

Moving on, London’s transportation ticket is the second most expensive in the world. Having Oyster Card surely helps, but still, it can be as high as £8 per day. Want to get cheaper option? Santander bike (https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles)! You can cycle around London for only £2 per 24 hours. So much cheaper, right? So much more tiring, as well. Hahaha… Anyway, if you are in fit condition and don’t bother to be tired at the end of the day, I think you should at least try the Santander bike. It’s not only cheap, but also a good way to explore the city.

London offers many attractions free for entry. Most of the free entry attractions are museums and art galleries. Educational, right? Hahaha… Don’t imagine the museums to be boring places. In here, the museums are very interesting. The layouts are planned carefully so that the visitors can really enjoy the places. Besides that, you can always take pictures in front of famous places, like Big Ben or Tower of London. All are free! You can also look out for offers like 2for1 or advanced online tickets. It can be quite a bargain.

Living cost always includes food and drink. Personally, I would suggest us all to have a certain budget for food and drink. Why? Because sometimes I can get carried along, thinking that it is a primary need so that I shouldn’t pay attention on how much it cost. Turns out that, it can be the biggest chunk of all of the spending! I usually put my limit on £20 per day if I am travelling alone. Together with my husband, my budget for food and drink is £30 per day. There are cheaper options of food and drink if you are on a budget. For me, bringing my own drink is very helpful. I don’t have to buy those costly bottles of mineral water. Sometimes I choose sandwiches or other cold food so that I can avoid paying the restaurant tax. If I want hot food, I usually go to Piccadilly area where there are many choices of cheaper street foods. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right place to eat. Avoid restaurants or places near to famous attractions and you will be safe!

London may be expensive, but we can always plan our itinerary based on our budget. Find out more inhttp://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/budget-london?ref=nav-dl. See you next week on more about London!

Feb 12, 2016

AdventureNotes #13: London, the Introduction

Okay! So the Adventure Notes for London will be divided into several parts because it is such a big city with sooo many points of interest. Therefore, the articles on London will be based on different point of views, such as Artsy London, London on Budget, etc.

In this first London article, I will try to give you basic information about visiting London. Of course, you can always find all of the information in http://www.visitlondon.com/. However, I will try to elaborate some important things and tips based on the website, several other websites, as well as my own experience. Here it goes…

1.      Getting there

London is easily accessible from… well, basically all around the world – according to your budget, of course. Mostly, people from around UK come to London by train. There are many options for the train, starting from the cheap one up to the high-end one. I usually look out for the best fare here:http://www.thetrainline.com/farefinder/. Using the website, I can get the best deal on the day I plan to travel. I could also change my travel dates based on the cheapest available ticket. You can also visit by train from Paris, using the fast train, EuroStar. It can be as cheap as £20 one way. Again, monitor the website, http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en, to get the best deal.

From other far point of departure, such as Edinburgh, cities in continental Europe, and other cities around the world, flying may be the best option. Look out of the best airlines deal here:http://www.skyscanner.net/.

If those transportations are not cheap enough for you, you may find Megabus attractive. Haha! It can be very cheap sometimes. I usually try to find the deals on more uncommon destinations or the destinations very expensive to get to by train. It can be very tiring, traveling by bus, especially if it is far, but if budget is your concern, it can be an option. Check your price here: http://uk.megabus.com/.

2.      Staying

There are actually many options to stay in London. As I live not too far from London, it can be cheaper to just have a day trip from my city to London. However, if you really want to explore the city, stay overnight is recommended. Where you stay will much depend on how you are traveling and your budget. Nowadays, AirBnB is quite popular. I haven’t tried it, but if you are traveling in groups or with your family, it can be a good bargain. As an Indonesian, I can always book a room in Wisma Indonesia. It is quite cheap although the location is quite far from central London.

I visited London several times and all of those times I stayed in different places. When I was with my friend or with my husband, I stayed in budget hotel or bed and breakfast. There are several options of budget hotel, including for those with families, such as EasyHotel, Travelodge, Premier Inn, and Ibis Budget.

When you are alone, the way you stay in London will be more flexible. I believe that hostel is the best option. Oh! And hostel is also a good option if you are traveling with several friends, say 4-8 people as you can stay together in a room for a cheaper price instead of booking several rooms in a hotel. People may think that hostel is… well, not clean, lack of privacy, and uncomfortable. In my experience, it basically depends on the hostel. Remember to read carefully the description of the hostel if you are looking for one. It usually mentions the ambience of the hostel, whether it is quite and businesslike or if it is hype and trendy with lots of parties around. Most hostels that I have ever visited are clean. The bathrooms are well maintained although it is a shared bathroom. Each bed will have its own access to an electric plug and each guest is given a certain locker with its key for the belongings. So, don’t worry, you can try to book a bed in a hostel!

My suggestion is, in looking for a budget hotel or hostel, do consider these things: price, location, room accessibility, and facilities in and around the hotel. For me, location is the most important thing. I wouldn’t want to travel far away to get to the places I want to visit. Therefore, I always compare the price with the location. Furthermore, London’s transportation fare may be quite expensive, so cutting the cost of transportation can help much of your budget.

3.      Transportation

The first thing about transportation in London is: Oyster Card. It is a must card if you are traveling to London. You can buy the card online or in travel information centers around London. It is a one-for-all ticket to get around London as you can use it to pay for the bus fare, tube, and waterway. Just top-up your card and you are ready to go! There are two different types of Oyster Card, the traveler one and the ordinary one. My suggestion is to buy the ordinary one. Yes, the traveler one has better design and cost less, but you can redeem your credit as well as the card when you finish using it. It costs £5 for the card and you will get your money back upon your redemption.

As you may already know, there are many means of transportation in London. There are tubes, buses, waterways, and bicycle. There is a London information website to find out live transportation report,https://tfl.gov.uk/. Using this website, I could avoid closed roads, late buses, etc. It is very helpful; especially to find out which tube line is in trouble or under maintenance.

Traveling around London is not difficult. Google maps and other mapping aps can direct you to certain places. What I need to be aware of is when it is difficult to get signal for my phone. A sense of simple direction, like North, South, West, and East, is important. Whenever you are going to get a tube or bus, think about your position and where you want to go to. Pretty simple, actually.

4.      Planning your itinerary

As I said, London is a big city. It is impossible to visit all places in one trip, believe me! Therefore, you itinerary should be made carefully. Choose the places you really want to go to, based on your interest. If you are just going to pass along some famous landmarks, you can do it in maybe 2-3 days. However, if you plan to visit museums, you have to allow one full day for one museum. Indeed, museums in London are big! British Museum has tens of galleries, the same as Natural History Museum. Just, don’t go too big in your itinerary. Be realistic, allow yourself to soak the London vibe. Oh, and a simple tips that I just figured out is that you can actually match your place of stay (hotel/hostels/others) to the places you want to visit. Visiting London per area is also a good option. For example, you can stay in Greenwich and visit only Greenwich attractions, and so on, and so on.

For this reason, too, the AdventureNotes on London is going to be divided into several parts, depending on the itinerary.

5.      Holiday season

It is pretty complicated to take this holiday season into consideration because most of us can only go to London during our holiday. BUT everything can be quite expensive during the holiday period. Besides, the city will be very crowded. I went to London during the Christmas holiday twice. On both occasions, the city was full – except on the exact Christmas date.

Another thing to be considered if you are traveling in holiday season is the availability of public transportations. They are usually limited on exact holiday. For example, I had to use the Santander Bike, https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles, to go around London on the Christmas day. It is okay for me, but for you with children or if you cannot ride bicycle, it may not be the best option. Another alternative is to walk. Yeaa… but you couldn’t go too far, could you?

Oh and one more thing! Not only the public transportation, other facilities such as toilets, shops, and restaurants are also usually closed on the exact celebration day. I really don’t want to experience the lack of those public facilities again during my trip, ever! It was quite horrible to not be able to find toilets and restaurants for a day.

6.      Budgeting

The last but certainly not least important thing to consider is your budget. London can be very expensive, so I usually set my daily budget to eat, etc. I also try to find the cheapest possible alternative to stay and travel. There are also lots of attraction tickets deals available for you. Do search for this and use the offers. It is worth to save one to two pounds, right?

Read the next AdventureNotes for more on London!

Jan 29, 2016

AdventureNotes #11: Verona

Padlocks? Really? Padlocks are quite popular in many tourist attractions nowadays, right? Well, this one is different because the picture was taken in the Juliet House, Verona.

Verona is a city famous because of its Romeo and Juliet setting. Well, despite its fictional nature, people still come here to see what’s life in Romeo and Juliet story. What’s in it? Hmmm… let’s see…

Despite of its rather confusing attractions, the made-up attractions to match up the setting in Romeo and Juliet story, Verona is a quite nice place to visit. Actually, I decided to visit this city by accident. I originally wanted to go to Florence or Venice, but the train ticket for both places were costly at that moment – I traveled during the Easter break, anyway. Then, my friend suggested to go to Verona instead.

We can take a train from Milan to Verona. The journey is around 2.5 hours. As I arrived in the train station in Verona, I took a bus to the city center. Unfortunately, I took the correct bus, but to the wrong direction! Haha My trip to Italy was full of this kind of experience. As my friend and I realized that we went on the wrong direction, we hoped off the bus and caught the correct one. Thankfully, I got to the city center. Oh, a little tips for you traveling to Italy, almost all transportation offer day ticket so it might be a good bargain. Anyway, the problem was that it was pouring rain that day! Such not a good day to travel.

Despite the weather, my friend and I decided to still explore the city. It’s Europe, people! When can we expect to not be surprised by the weather anyway? So, we walked pass this building, similar to but smaller than Colloseum. I figure that this kind of building was popular in Italy back on those days. The building is called Arena di Verona.

Under the pouring rain, we walked along the small streets of Verona. We passed this very crowded place, Cassa di Giuletta – Juliet’s House. Well, the story of Romeo and Juliet is fictional and so is the house. I think people just made it up for the tourists. There is also Romeo’s House but I think it is located quite far from the city center. Interestingly, there are loads of people who are even willing to pay to go inside the house. Well, I didn’t. The ticket is too pricey.

I just saw the house from its garden where there are many “love” padlocks attached to the wall. What’s so gross is that there are also some bubble gums attached there. Euwh.

After taking some pictures, we decided to go to Piazza delle Erbe. The piazza is located in the middle of the city. At that time, there was an outdoor market held. We bought calzones for our lunch and they were delicious!

Another interesting tourist attraction worth to enter in Verona is Castelvecchio. Basically, it was a castle, which now is used as a museum. Again, entering the museum is quite expensive so we explored the castle from the outside. The scenery from the top of the castle’s wall is beautiful.

As we walked back to the train station, we passed some churches. It is typical Italy that churches are everywhere and are considered to be tourist attractions. Some churches worth to visit are Basilica di San Lorenzo and Verona Cathedral.

To conclude, Verona may be an alternative city to visit while traveling to Italy. It is small, so day trip should be enough to explore the city. It may be useful to read Romeo and Juliet before visiting this city so that we can absorb the spirit of this city.

Juliets, find your Romeo here!

Jan 15, 2016

AdventureNotes #10: Special Edition, Family Euro Trip

image

Despite the picture, no, I’m not going to write about my own family trip to Europe. Instead, this article is dedicated to ‘emak-emak rempong’ in Birmingham. It’ll consist of tips and other things to consider in preparing for travel and in traveling in Europe (well, most of the countries in Europe, anyway).

Maybe for most Indonesian, traveling to Europe is a dream. Having read many encyclopedias about European countries, seeing pictures of European typical scenery, and listening to other people’s story of their experience traveling to Europe made me promise myself that someday I will go to that continent. Maybe this is also the case of many people. Besides, the dream to explore the world is always tempting, right?

The world is getting narrower and narrower. The access to move around and to visit the far-away places has been opened. And now, as I live in the UK, I automatically think that it is such a good opportunity to explore Europe! Such an opportunist, I am indeed. However, it is a logical choice as the cost to travel European countries from the UK will be much cheaper than from Indonesia.

Based on conversations with other people who had traveled to Europe (cc: Mbak Magda & Mbak Ari) and my own experience, there are some points to consider in planning the trip and in traveling, especially when you are going with your family. It is going to be different from my usual tips in other AdventureNotes articles because traveling with family is definitely a different kind of challenge.

1. Transportation

The first step to plan your family travel is to find budget-friendly flight or train tickets. Other European countries are easily accessible by flights or train from London to Paris. We can search for the cheapest plan and train tickets using the ‘holy’ technology. I would recommend http://www.skyscanner.net/ as the website offers the comparison of plane tickets throughout the year so that we can really see the cheapest date to travel. Another way to get to European countries is by train. The fast train tickets from London to Paris can be found here: http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en. There is actually another way to travel, which is by ferry. Not too many people know this, but the port in Brighton and Hull offer ferry rides that connect those two cities to some cities in France, Netherlands, and Belgium. It can also be an option to consider. Plan your trip ahead to get the best bargain!

2. Accommodation

As I would suggest hostels for solo travelers, my friends who traveled with their family suggest AirBnB as the best accommodation option when traveling with family. The website, https://www.airbnb.co.uk/, enables you to search suitable accommodation for your family. The process of renting an accommodation from AirBnB is pretty simple, actually. Just search for the accommodations, compare the available options, and book the chosen one! There are just some things we might need to consider as we are actually renting a place owned by a person. It is recommended to check the guest reviews and contact the owner beforehand to see the owner’s flexibility – for instance when we are going to arrive late at night and such.

3. Car Rent

As most countries in Europe are located closely to each other, many modes of public transportation are available to help us move from one country to another. There are buses and trains connecting one country to another. As they are easily available, they can be considered as an option for your trip. However, traveling with family sometimes requires high level of flexibility, which does not go hand in hand with public transportation. Renting a car may be the best deal for families traveling to Europe. Some people are worried because they don’t have an international driving licence, but actually Indonesian driving licence is widely accepted here. Renting a car is also a simple process as you just need to book the car online and pick it up in your chosen place. The most convenient place to pick up the car is in the airport so that you don’t have to think about how to get into the city from the airport. Choosing the car that you want to rent is also a crucial step because you have to match the car with your needs. The chosen car should meet the number of seats needed, its GPS readiness, and whether it is in manual or automatic mode. Again, your preference will affect the cost.

4. Food

This is an inevitable expense during traveling. And sometimes, it cost a lot, probably a huge percentage of the total traveling cost. To reduce this expense, people who travel with families can consider to cook their meals throughout the journey. As AirBnB accommodation usually provide kitchen, it is quite an easy thing to do. Local shops and amenities will provide quite good range of groceries and food supplies. Easy peazy! For Indonesians, bringing ready-made food is also a good option.

5. Inner City Transportation

As in some European countries parking spot is a difficult thing to find, it may be a good choice to park your car outside the city and commute using the inner-city public transportation in order to explore the city. For some cities with bad traffic, such as Rome, it is also a very good option. You can usually buy inner-city public transportation tickets easily. Some cities offer family tickets, some others offer day tickets. It is an advantage to know these things beforehand to avoid unnecessary cost. A thing to consider in mind for families with children under 5 who may still be in stroller, it is better to commute by bus than metro or tube because bus is easily accessible whereas metro or tube requires you to go underground, sometimes without adequate facilities.

6. Attraction Tickets

For some families, strolling down the streets of beautiful cities or enjoying the scenery is enough. For some others, going into a tourist attraction is a must. Most tourist attractions offer group or family tickets. Ask for this when you are purchasing your ticket. Sometimes there are also city pass, which enables your family to enter several attractions with only one ticket. Sometimes, there are also 2for1 tickets or other promotions offered by companies or the attraction itself. Do search and take advantage of those promotional tickets!

With those points explained, there is no one-fit-for-all explanation. Each family should consider different aspects before deciding on the travel itinerary. There are three crucial factors need to be taken into account when planning your Euro Trip:

1. Time

Consider when you are going to travel. Is it a long school holiday? Is it winter? Is it summer? The time you are traveling is important because it will affect how you choose your outfit, whether it is easy to drive a car (it can be very slippery when the road is frosty), and if the day is going to be longer or shorter. It will also affect whether you enjoy the atmosphere or not – traveling during summer school holiday can be uncomfortable if you don’t like crowds.

How long you are going to travel is also a factor to be considered. Is it worth it to rent a car if you only travel for 5 days? How many cities do you want to visit? It is mostly important to determine your destination cities. Most Indonesian tours aim to visit as many cities as possible. Is that what you want? Or do you want to absorb a city’s spirit so that it’ll take you some times in one city?

2. Budget

I think this is the core of all travel plannings. How much do you want to spend for a trip? If it is okay for you to spend millions, probably you’d choose a nice hotel in the center of a city instead of AirBnB. I would suggest to budget every single detail of your trip. For example, I budget the food cost for each day to be GBP 20 or the cost of attraction tickets to be GBP 100 for the whole trip.

3. Condition

Traveling is an exhausting activity. Yes, despite the fact that it is fun and enjoyable and blablabla, it is exhausting! Therefore, you need to consider you and your family’s physical ability. It is especially important when you are traveling with very small children. You won’t want half of your trip cancelled because you are too tired, won’t you? Measure your pace and plan your trip accordingly.

So, plan your next trip now! Don’t worry too much because you are the only one who knows what you want and what you are capable of. And as a wise man says, when there is a will, there is a way.

Jan 10, 2016